I don’t believe much in coincidence when it comes to politics. It is clear that the President and current administration believe that the Mueller Report exonerates the President from any wrongdoing with respect to the Russian interference in the 2016 election or the subsequent investigation. Others disagree with respect to the obstruction of justice issue and congressional investigations continue.
It is interesting though that just a day after the Attorney General issued his summary of the Mueller report, the Justice Department changed its position regarding the federal case involving the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Texas v. United States, No. 19-10011. In December of last year, a federal judge of a U.S. District Court in Texas found the entire Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional because Congress virtually repealed the individual mandate by decreasing the tax on individuals for not having health insurance, to zero. Texas v. United States, 352 F.Supp.3d 665 (N.D. TX 2018). The case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit and originally the U.S. Justice Department argued that if the individual mandate was no longer constitutional than the protections against pre-existing conditions of the Act were also unconstitutional. On Monday, March 25, the Justice Department lawyers informed the Fifth Circuit that it now agrees entirely with the lower court decision that the entire Act is unconstitutional and will file a brief arguing the lower decision should be upheld in its entirety.
Coincidence? Or is the Administration emboldened by its perceived victory? Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) seems to believe it’s the latter as he tweeted, “The Barr summary clearly demonstrates Republicans are trying to take your healthcare away.”
In any case, the new Justice Department position means the fight over the ACA and healthcare in general, rages on. Regardless of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, it is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course, we know that President Trump was successful in getting his last nominee for Supreme Court Justice approved. Therefore, the administration may like their chances to end the ACA at the high court.
In the meantime, on March 26, House Democrats introduced the Protecting Preexisting Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Care Act of 2019, a bill to preserve and strengthen the ACA by, among other things, protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, expanding the availability of subsidies and increasing premium tax credits. Other Democrats, and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, are pushing for “Medicare for all” legislation but that is not included in the bill introduced on March 26. Democrats see protecting the ACA as a big part of the mid-term elections that gave them control of the House. It is also likely to be a big part of the 2020 election.